Letter week fo March 19, 2009



Greater Philadelphia Has a Stake in School's Health

I'm responding to David Magerman's opinion piece ("Decision to Reject School Merger: Loyalty, Yes, but a Sound Move?" March 12), in which he questions the financial wisdom of keeping the Saligman Middle School open.

As one of the leaders who worked to avoid the unification of Saligman with the Barrack Hebrew Academy, I can assure Mr. Magerman that the families behind this effort were neither naive about the fiscal issues at stake nor unconcerned about the long-term viability of Perelman Jewish Day School.

What motivated those who opposed Saligman's closing were the drastic decrease in the number of Jewish children who would attend the unified school because of the great distance to the Radnor campus, even if free busing were available; the belief that Saligman's approach to middle-school education as part of a Conservative framework would be compromised; and the lack of process to engage the community to help save the school before deciding to close it.

Sound business principles are necessary for the health of any institution. But Philadelphia's Jewish leaders should understand that Jewish neighborhoods throughout the region have a stake in Saligman.

We hope that Mr. Magerman and the Kohelet Foundation will continue to be a strong financial supporter of the school, so that as many children as possible will continue to benefit from a Saligman education — and so that the strong Jewish communities on both sides of the river will continue to thrive.
Rabbi David Glanzberg-Krainin
Senior Rabbi
Beth Sholom Congregation
Rabbinic chair
Kehillah of Old York Road
Elkins Park

Faith-Based Funding, Used Wisely, Benefits All

The issue of governing boards of faith-based institutions receiving public funds keeps arising (Nation & World: "Keeping the Faith? Groups Prove Effective, but Thorny Issues Persist," March 12).

Actually, it's not surprising that faith-based institutions are governed by people of the same persuasion. However, if they receive public funds for a social activity, that program must be non-discriminatory.

One of the best examples locally of an appropriately run organization is JEVS Human Services. The JEVS board is Jewish, but a large component of the organization, the Orleans Job Training Center, hires staff and trains individuals regardless of race or creed.

As long as faith-based organizations use public funds in a nondiscriminatory way, we all benefit from their expertise.
Walter J. Gershenfeld

Genetic Counseling Offers Couples Many Options

Michael Elkin's review of the movie "Two Lovers" mentions that the main character was depressed after a break-up when he and his former fiance learned they were carriers of Tay-Sachs. How refreshing that the entertainment community has brought to light a real issue.

In today's world, genetic counseling would be recommended for this couple to help them understand that options are available to have their own healthy biological children. While relationships between two carriers of a mutation in the same disease gene require extra planning and consideration, it does not have to be a reason to end a relationship.

It should be made clear that the metaphor of pass vs. fail with respect to test results is not indicative of how medical tests are interpreted. Information from carrier screening tests gives individuals knowledge to help plan a healthy family. No adult should be afraid of "failing" a test.

The Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia offers screening for 11 diseases that are more prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. Comprehensive genetic counseling is provided before testing so those screened understand the one-in-five chance of being a carrier of a Jewish genetic disease.
Adele Schneider, M.D., FACMG
Medical director
Faye Shapiro, M.S., CGC
Certified genetic counselor
The Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases Philadelphia



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